Wednesday, December 12, 2012



for Luke Cochrane

Saturday morning rain in Perth
and things seem as intimately far off and strange
as the new maps of water running down the windowpane.
No birds on the black boughs of the November trees
and black mirrors in the empty funeral home parking lot
and on the other side of me
the stalwart bloodbrick of a wet church
that looks better in the nicotine lingerie
and dusky seaspray
of a single yellow floodlight at night
that can’t get it up to be a lighthouse.

It would be a lie to say that I’m not in love
and happily alone, but I most wistfully am,
as I excuse myself for being me
and put myself off like the small death of another way
I could have taken to get back home, but didn’t.

November’s an orphanage after the last kid has left
and I’m sure there’s an ancient chthonic wisdom
under the duff and detritus
of all these slick, leechy leaves
that the earth has applied to herself like a poultice
to draw the violets and worms out in spring,
but right now my mouth is not a wound
with anything deep to say
about things too deep to be said
and there are memories of women and friends in my head
sleeping like keys in the bottom of a drawer
that I have saved for when the day comes
to open the flowers and doors
that I’ve forgotten,
all the soft sorrows that rime the radiance
of the halo around a black hole
haunted by these ghosts of light.

I am absorbed like tears in a tenderness of grey
and there’s more healing than thorn
in the cool aloe of the air
moist with a seance of emotions
that gust lightly around me
as if yesterday were merely a fragrance
hovering over an eye of wine
like the dust and smoke of today
that bottles its purity like water.

Sometimes love passes like a glacier over you
and there are runes and scars and striations on your skin
and lakes and craters and eyes the sky fills in
and the sun comes out like an exorcist
and you feel like you’ve been baptized in ice
or tucked into the crevice of a wailing wall
like a baby mammoth, or an unanswered prayer
and you try not to care
that you’re a freak of your own evolution
trying to clone yourself out of the museum into a zoo
and that all these people are staring at you
like a missing link between the parentheses of your tusks
that have unhinged you from the gate of time
you once swung on like your next breath,
and if you were asked about the extremes of mercy
you would say, without hesitation, death.

Sometimes it’s that hard to accept
that nothing that happens here, including death
is ever over, and that the absence of something or someone
doesn’t mean they’ve ceased to exist
like footprints that lead down to a river.
Because we all live the same beginningless beginning
that is the once and forever of this universe
even if it should call itself home occasionally like an eye,
we go on living and dying each other alone
like an extinct species always asking the time
when the moonlight burns like lime in a grave
and then, once more, absurdly never the same
riots of flying fish leap from every drop of rain
that remembers the passion of the wave
offering itself in the life of every moment
like a jewel thawing, or an icecap over the eye
or the opening of a brittle window
to be scoped out by the nightwind
that longs like a thief for the sea
to gather him up like one of its belongings.

But you can’t pour the universe out of the universe
where the whole is sustained by every part
anymore than you can empty the human heart
that is renewed by its own exhaustion like a tide.
Time is always prelude
and death has never known when
to take down its sail like a tree in the fall.

And because things are never the same twice
and the road back is not the road taken
the world and everyone in it
just as they are, have always been here.
Things don’t come and go
like migrating geese ascending southward out of a field,
or things fallen returning to their leaves
because there’s nowhere to come from
nowhere to go to
that isn’t now and here
as intimately far as it is impersonally near.

Ask almost anyone who they are
and they’ll look down a well in a mirage
to haul up their reflection on a wheel
and insist it’s real
when they ladle their face to their lips
like the moon on dark water.

Or they’ll tell you a story around an unending fire
where the shadows are always truer than the flames
and the most illuminating themes burn like stars without names.
Mind is space and there is
nowhere inside or outside of anything
that is closer or futher than anything else
because everything is mind as far as you can be.

So I can stand here in my lengthening shadow
like a long departure
turning into the wind like a sail or a sundial
as if I were the last of my species of eclipse
and life were merely the long, hard discipline
of unmastering the art
of saying hello to the living
and good-bye to the dead,
or turning the telescope around
and saying good-bye to the living,
hello to the dead as I please,
but I’d rather shed myself
like all these falling maps to anywhere
that once arrived like the fleets of the leaves like me
on the shores of this rootless tree
that doesn’t let go of things for its own survival
but lives in itself like a stranger come
to the opening gate of an endless arrival.

I let the birds come and go, the apples fall,
the stars build their webs in my crown,
and grow like a holy road I take as my own,
like geese passing overhead at night,
or the small birds that come to me like voices
a moment here then gone
who taught me that it’s always dawn
because there’s no end of the beginningless beginning
and it may be a green bough
or a dead branch
you hop up and down on like the hidden notes
of something you’re singing
on the rungs of these crazy snakes and ladders
that long like flesh and bone in the night
for things they can’t see anymore in the light,
or fish dying of thirst in a fathomless pond
or a fire putting itself out in its own eye
or someone dying and someone else asking why
and the whole of creation left alone at home
feeling it doesn’t belong under its own sky
like this Saturday morning rain in Perth
the day after your death
that falls like a loveletter too late upon the earth
or the harvest moon of a delinquent heart
above an untimely skeleton
that can’t decide whether it’s a tuning fork
or a witching wand
looking for answers like water
under every stone on the moon,
the way we cry for people we think are gone,
but green bough, dead branch, Luke, same song.




The glow of a human you know as a friend.
Closer than a candle that believes in stars.
Warmer than a fire when water scars
the names of those who were written into it
like the tears of crystal skulls
no one knows how to heal, and sits
quietly by the edge of the river like a deathbed.
Saying nothing of what can’t be said.

Don’t think it doesn’t make a difference
when humans transcend themselves
and make a space for you in their hearts
as if one wound could care for another enough
to double book the same ambulance
if nothing else. There are gestures of humanity
like breadcrumbs in the snow on windowsills.
There are acts of compassion swaddled in silence
like clean oxygen people breathe in every day
without knowing it until they notice the dog
with two pairs of old gloves on its paws
to keep them from cracking in the cold.

How many doors have been hallowed
by a bowl of warm soup being passed
across the threshold of one hunger to another
and even the ambrosia and nectar
of the infatuated gods never tasted
any holier than that. There are people
who ask for the world. And people
who give it to them like a blade of grass.
And even the perfect black mirrors of the demons
sometimes break down into tears
and welcome the human touch
of an affable familiar who knows about
lightning rods and rewiring chandeliers.
Women with eyes that don’t look upon you
as if you were always in arrears
in a debtor’s prison run by profiteers
bayonetting the bushes at night for runaway slaves.

It’s a mistake to make a religion
out of a kindness that isn’t based
on anymore than why not if it helps.
But what cross, crescent or six pointed star
of a Davidic ritual, ever crossed
a burning bridge as spiritual as this?
No trumpets at noon. The sun doesn’t
stand still. No prophets are rushing
up the fire ladders to heaven. It isn’t
snake-eyes. It isn’t seven come eleven.
It’s just the human divinity hidden
in the sublimity of ordinary acts of people
sweeping thorns off the path of life,
broken glass along this firewalk
on the Road of Ghosts three million light years long.

In dead ends in dangerous cities
with the traffic passing overhead
I’ve stood with derelict men and women
around the spontaneous combustion
of an empty oil drum on a brutal night
and held out my open palms like solar panels
to warm them up as if I were praying
at the shrine of a generous fire-god
cutting up another cardboard box
to keep the flames flowering like poppies.
There are defamed angels in a school
of hard knocks. Soft gold in the hard rocks
that don’t wear it on their sleeves
like spiritual bling. Like apple trees
they just do their thing, and everyone benefits.

Purity can throw bleach in your eyes
to rinse the stains of what’s intimate
and personal out of the bedsheets
of the cosmic membranes they hang from heaven.
You can wring the soiled rain out of the rose
as if it were a bloodstream. You can dream
of the perfect first principles of something
whole and antiseptically clean, and never
need to dirty your hands in starmud ever again.
You can be magically correct about how
you wrong the tragic effect of pain
on human nature. No complaints from the morgue.

Direct access to the heart and mind
outside of scripture. From the very first,
nothing to be taught. Nothing to be learned.
Great enlightenment doesn’t maintain a teacher
Compassion isn’t the star of a double feature.
Things return to the heart hungrier
than when they left, blue wavelengths,
then leave it again like a redshift in the blood.
Dawn, sunset. Mood swings of an hourglass
with a short umbilical cord between them
through which life passes back and forth
like the pulse of a bell kicking in the womb.
Cells are exchanged. Roles reversed. Innocence
returns to the salmon in the mindstream.
Experience lavishes rich silt on the lowlands.
Honey flows from the hives of drones with stingers.
Some night lights can hit all the high notes just right
like fireflies with a constellation of a reputation
among the stars for dazzling insights into love,
but the eyes of true kindness don’t see anything
to shine above. Love sees things on the same side
of your eyes you’re on. Memory being
the mother of muses, recalling when
you were that young, you were that poor,
you had a future memory of growing old alone,
you were that hurt and wounded,
you were that appalling, you were that
inexcusably wonderful chandelier of adamantine tears,
and your imagination used to refract
your submersible emotions in much the same way
before you went galactic, what else
could kindness, compassion, empathy,
a good friend be, but an original work of inspiration
rejoicing in the effortless ease of labouring creatively
in human collaboration with a spontaneous universe?

No human raised on the milk of human kindness
ever needed a primum mobile, a first mover,
a first cause, the corollary of an axiomatc sine qua non,
a Milky Way made straight, a Solonic book of laws
shadowing the real thing like the transit
a shepherd moon. Easy to tell a real lover
from a mere accomplice. Look for udders
of old gloves wrapped around a stray dog’s paws
to keep them from cracking on burning mirrors of black ice.